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I Have A Chance To Make A Difference!

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Hello wonderful parents of Celiac and gluten-intolerant children!

The principal at my daughters grade 6-12 school is working rigorously to secure a new food service provider for her school's lunch program. He's also looking at making drastic changes to the eating environment to encourage high schoolers to stay on campus during the lunch break. My daughter is a 7th grader and brings her lunch to school every day and refuses to eat in the lunch room because it is so filthy with crumbs.

I will be participating on the parent committee for submitting the RFP to different food service providers as well as the eating improvement plan. This is really great because it's a ground-up effort to improve food service, and I am very passionate about making it possible for kids with food allergies and intolerances (probably the top 8, including gluten--not just wheat) to eat safely at school--whether that means menu choices or simply a safe environment--is yet to be seen.

So, I am asking YOU parents, what would make your child's school lunch program ideal as a food allergy/intolerance sufferer? Really just a laundry/wish list of what you think would actually work for your child in terms of school lunches would be ideal.

Thanks in advance for your help! I'll keep you updated as I know more.

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Hello wonderful parents of Celiac and gluten-intolerant children!

The principal at my daughters grade 6-12 school is working rigorously to secure a new food service provider for her school's lunch program. He's also looking at making drastic changes to the eating environment to encourage high schoolers to stay on campus during the lunch break. My daughter is a 7th grader and brings her lunch to school every day and refuses to eat in the lunch room because it is so filthy with crumbs.

I will be participating on the parent committee for submitting the RFP to different food service providers as well as the eating improvement plan. This is really great because it's a ground-up effort to improve food service, and I am very passionate about making it possible for kids with food allergies and intolerances (probably the top 8, including gluten--not just wheat) to eat safely at school--whether that means menu choices or simply a safe environment--is yet to be seen.

So, I am asking YOU parents, what would make your child's school lunch program ideal as a food allergy/intolerance sufferer? Really just a laundry/wish list of what you think would actually work for your child in terms of school lunches would be ideal.

Thanks in advance for your help! I'll keep you updated as I know more.

I think that you have a terrific opportunity to make a HUGE difference here! I'm already looking forward to hearing how this works out.

As far as ideas go for allergic kids, I think one thing that would help immensely is having fresh, whole foods available. This can often be worked through the Farm to School program. http://www.farmtoschool.org/ This is where local farms can become providers of fresh produce, meat (and dairy) for a school system. This is a healthier option for ALL children at the school.

Many schools have salad bars which easily could be a "safe" option just by switching to pre-packaged croutons and having the dairy/egg options in a separate section or a separate place entirely. Once again, pre-packaged salad dressing, or more attention paid to allergen-friendly products could be applied to include most (if not all) students.

I know that for younger, peanut-allergic kids, there often is a peanut-free table. I think this could also be done for gluten and other issues. I know that with my daughter, 1/4 of a lunch table is designated as "hers". Each week, she gets to pick 3 friends who can sit with her at that area. That way, she can pick children who understand she cannot share and who aren't prone to throwing their food around and acting up. This also makes it easier on the cafeteria staff in terms of knowing which table needs cleaned first....and most thoroughly. This has helped tremendously in avoiding CC and only came about after a horrific reaction caused by one boy who thought it was cute to hit other kids over the head with his sandwich at my dd's table. :angry:

At a high school level, I think students could be encouraged to start being responsible for themselves. If someone decides it's humorous to make a huge mess, than it should be equally as humorous to clean it up afterward. If they miss class due to clean-up, the work could be made up in detention along with required "extra credit" homework to help offset wasted time. I think the cafeteria staff would benefit from a more smoothly run operation and then could be able to do a few things to help with allergic students.

I don't think it would be financially possible to have allergen-free lunches provided every day (though here's to hoping). But I do think that with a bit of preliminary research, that it really could be an option at least once a week, perhaps more. My guess would be that Mondays would be a viable allergen-free day (as the kitchen could be cleaned thoroughly on Friday and would be ready to go for the beginning of the week). This also would be the best day in regards to the lunch room being at its cleanest.

Besides that, just looking at some of the standard food staples and seeing if there's an economical alternate that could be used. For example, stocking canola instead of peanut or soybean oil. Then having a designated fryer for french fries (if your school serves them) or using fries that are allergen-free to be baked for the kids.

Our pre-k didn't like any fresh produce in the school because of spoilage. Boy...what I could have done with those fruits and veggies....and a juicer! lol! Imagine if a "juice bar" were available...one that finished off any "extra" produce each week. It's a pipe dream, but I would wager it would do well among most students.

I've got to stop myself before I get carried away any further! :rolleyes:

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Those are all really good suggestions and thank you! I'm sure there are a lot of things I'll ask for that won't happen, but this opportunity doesn't come around very often.

I know a salad bar is in the plans, so prepackaged dressing and croutons are definitely something that I will note.

Even having one meal a week or some prepackaged safe allergy meals that are available would be a start. Simply have someone be AWARE that there is a demand here would be a good thing.

I think I am going to start by finding a good way to survey and identify families who are interested in allergy-friendly options at school.

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Those are all really good suggestions and thank you! I'm sure there are a lot of things I'll ask for that won't happen, but this opportunity doesn't come around very often.

I know a salad bar is in the plans, so prepackaged dressing and croutons are definitely something that I will note.

Even having one meal a week or some prepackaged safe allergy meals that are available would be a start. Simply have someone be AWARE that there is a demand here would be a good thing.

I think I am going to start by finding a good way to survey and identify families who are interested in allergy-friendly options at school.

I know that 20 years ago, my high school introduced a salad bar. Unaware of celiac disease at the time, I now look back and find it ingenious that our school purchased two units. A small, open and cooled (ice was kept under a very large bowl of lettuce) unit for the lettuce and a normal "bar" for all of the toppings. The toppings in the bar unit could easily be segregated and separated to cut down on cross-contamination issues (like cheese, cottage cheese, puddings, hard-boiled eggs, etc.).

Pre-packaged allergen-friendly items should be something schools seriously look into. Every school has an emergency preparedness plan in case of emergencies (school lockdown, inclement weather, natural disasters). They usually have a backup school or location that they plan to go to and they also need to feed the children in the interim. Just what do they plan to do with allergic children? Let them starve? Fruit cups, certain canned meats, applesauce....heck, even some of those rice noodle bowls (minus the oil packet for the soy-allergic) would be an option. I find those bowls at some stores for 99 cents a piece. The point being....there should be something. In the least, they should ask the parents of allergic children to provide items for them to stock in case of an emergency situation at the beginning of each school year. I'd say a minimum of 3 emergency meals per child and have the parents label the items to correspond with the student/class. This would also be helpful in case something ever happens to the lunch of an allergic child. We had a situation where another student contaminated my daughter's lunch through thoughtless behavior. She didn't think any gluten got into her food, but discovered later (through a horrific reaction), that her lunch had been CC'd. :angry: It's simply unacceptable to not offer a backup plan for these scenarios.

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We had a situation where another student contaminated my daughter's lunch through thoughtless behavior. She didn't think any gluten got into her food, but discovered later (through a horrific reaction), that her lunch had been CC'd. :angry: It's simply unacceptable to not offer a backup plan for these scenarios.

That actually happened to my daughter today. :angry: It's only the 2nd time in two years she had a glutening at this school. That's statistically good, I guess, but frustrating and painful, nevertheless.

It never even occurred to me about the disaster preparedness plan. I will definitely bring this up with the school!

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If you go to our school district www.scasd.org > services > food service you can find copies of our wellness policy (our district prohibits selling candy as a fundraiser, parties with candy, or rewards of candy or high-fat items) in addition to the form you fill out for a special diet request. That's how you get gluten-free meals for a student, although more typically you just talk to your child's cafeteria manager. For years, my son brought his lunch and they kept it on the "allergies" shelf in elementary school -- now at the high school, they have access to a microwave that is cleaned every period. Good stuff. Good luck!

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